People often find it strange that I only listen to Christian music, even people who know me really well. To be honest, I don’t think the label ‘Christian music’ is particularly helpful for the general public. Sure, it’s music written from a Christian perspective (that’s why I listen to it), but I think people, especially in England, have this weird idea that Christian music is of a lower standard than secular music, that it’s just people singing boring songs about Jesus. It’s a stereotype, and, as with most stereotypes, whilst there might be one or two artists that fit it, the majority are actually nothing like it. I’ve written a post on why I only listen to Christian music before (https://bengarry.wordpress.com/2012/11/17/why-i-only-listen-to-christian-music/), but I want to talk a bit more generally about my experiences as opposed to just the reasons why I decided to get rid of all my secular music in the first place.
I’m going to make it clear now: I am not musically talented/knowledgeable in any way. Yes, this means I can’t analyse the techniques and stuff in the music, but it also means that I judge music, quite simply, by whether I like how it sounds or not. Other people may pick apart every element of a song, but that’s definitely not going to happen with me. The best I can do is analyse the lyrics (I’m an English student, after all). So now all that’s sorted, let me talk about the music a bit more.
I like rock music. Thankfully, Christian rock is pretty big in the USA so it’s not surprising that that’s where the vast majority of my music comes from. The bands that really got me into the Christian music scene were Kutless and Skillet. I found Kutless by ‘accident’ and Skillet was recommended to me by a non-Christian friend completely out of the blue. They’re two very different bands and they have both improved over time, in my opinion. Kutless are easier to listen to and will appeal to a wider audience of Christians, certainly. They don’t do anything complicated and their songs are a catchy mix of contemporary/worship music and pretty standard rock. Of their albums, their latest, ‘Believer’ is undoubtedly the best. I probably wouldn’t recommend them to a non-Christian, but they are criminally under-followed by the English church. Skillet, on the other hand, have had huge success in the secular music industry in America whilst still remaining unerringly true to their Christian roots. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to any fan of rock music, Christian or not. For me, one of their great successes is in writing lyrics that won’t alienate non-Christians but still carry that Christian message into the secular industry. I know from when I listened to secular music that too many of the non-Christian rock lyrics are about alcohol, sex and negative emotions. I honestly don’t understand why people want to listen to that. Bands like Skillet get it right, they sing songs that can resonate with a large audience, yet carry a positive message of hope.
That’s not to say that Christian bands don’t sing emotional songs. The song that introduced me to the band Disciple, called ‘Things Left Unsaid’, is truly heart-wrenching. In fact, many of the rock bands I now listen to have some incredible rock ballads. In my humble opinion, Red are the masters of this; listen to ‘Pieces’, ‘Hymn for the Missing’ or ‘Not Alone’ if you don’t believe me. So what sets these songs apart? It’s not like rock ballads are uncommon in the music industry, take songs like ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ (Green Day) or ‘I’d Come for You’ (Nickelback). It might just be me, but these Christian bands have something that these other bands lack. I can’t really describe it – it’s an emotional depth, a feeling, something stirring that just grabs you and makes you listen to them. What’s more, no matter how sad the rest of the song, and ‘Things Left Unsaid’ is very, very sad, there is always a message of hope: ‘So goodbye for now and I’ll see you again some way somehow, when it’s my time to go to the other side I’ll hold you again and melt at your smile.’
So what else is there? Well, I’ve always loved pop-punk, you know, Blink 182, Green Day, All Time Low, Boys Like Girls, that sort of thing. I’ll admit, it’s been harder to find good pop-punk now I only listen to Christian music, but it’s there, it’s definitely there. Relient K were the breakthrough for me. Yet they’re something more than those other one-sound pop-punk bands. Sure, they do catchy, loud songs, but they also do more contemplative, intelligent songs that really reward you the more you listen, again, there is that emotional depth in the lyrics that is missing from the secular industry. Of course, Relient K aren’t the only Christian pop-punk band, you also have The Almost, Hawk Nelson, Krystal Meyers, Amber Pacific and more. The lyrics are so honest and believed. I always remember reading an interview with Alex Gaskarth of All Time Low in which he said that on one of his albums (I forget which one) he didn’t really emotionally connect with the songs because the scenarios were all completely fictional. You just don’t get that with these other bands.
I could keep going on; I’ve barely mentioned any of the heavier bands that I listen to regularly, but my intention with this post was to challenge the stereotype of Christian music, to show that it’s good to listen to and not some bland droning about the Bible. If you’re a Christian, then I urge you to try out some of the bands that I’ve mentioned and have a look on sites like http://www.jesusfreakhideout.com for others…if you’re not a Christian, then I dare you to broaden your horizons and give some of these bands a listen.
Here are links to some of the songs I mentioned (and a couple of others) on Youtube:
‘Identity’ – Kutless: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pG-yjLB6etw
‘Awake and Alive’ – Skillet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aJUnltwsqs
‘Things Left Unsaid’ – Disciple: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Jjti9TxyEY
‘Not Alone’ – Red: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ODDtLMiGnY
‘Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been’ – Relient K: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YVuql8R1G8
‘No I Don’t’ – The Almost: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDhumfUCLzw
‘Beauty of Grace’ – Krystal Meyers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvcoAF2OnYU
I dare you to listen.